Social Justice Advocate, Concussion Researcher Next in UNCW’s Leadership Lecture Series

Friday, February 10, 2017

This spring, the UNCW Leadership Lecture Series is hosting two guest speakers whose powerful stories and research have made their mark on the cultural and medical landscapes.

“Campus Life Arts and Programs build upon the lecture experience and provide additional opportunities for instructors to connect student experiences in and out of the classroom and spark thought-provoking discussions,” said Larry Wray, executive director of campus life.

When she was 22, Jennifer Thompson was brutally raped and wrongly identified Ronald Cotton as her assailant. Cotton was eventually freed thanks to his persistence in maintaining his innocence and newly developed DNA tests, which identified the true perpetrator. Together, the two co-authored Picking Cotton, a memoir and New York Times best-seller that recounts the tragedy that brought them together and the importance of reforms to the justice system, along with the role of forgiveness and grace in their lives.

Today, Thompson is an advocate for judicial reform, combating sexual violence, death penalty abolition, the fallibility of eyewitness testimony and the healing power of forgiveness. She will speak at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 21 in the Burney Center.

Physician, forensic pathologist and neuropathologist Bennet Omalu is credited with identifying chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain disease afflicting many former NFL players. The disease has changed the conversation about head trauma and football.

Omalu first diagnosed CTE after performing an autopsy on former Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster. He is portrayed by Oscar-nominated actor Will Smith in the film Concussion.

Omalu’s presentation will take place at 7 p.m. on March 29 in the Burney Center and is co-sponsored by the Office of the Dean of Students, the Center for Healthy Communities Healthcare Transformation Lecture Series in the College of Health and Human Services, and the Association for Campus Entertainment.

The Leadership Lecture Series invites participants to engage in political, cultural diversity and economic discourse and stay informed about topics that affect the world around them. In addition to the lectures, class visits and other events are planned. Fostering diversity and inclusion and enhancing learning experiences are identified as priorities in UNCW’s Strategic Plan.

Tickets for both of these events are free for UNCW faculty, staff and students and are $10 for the general public. They are available through Sharky's Box Office and Game Room and may be picked up and/or purchased in the lobby the evening of the event.

Past speakers include Jerry Greenfield, half of the famous duo that created Ben & Jerry’s ice cream; veteran political strategist Donna Brazile and Piper Kerman, critically acclaimed author of memoir-turned-Netflix-series Orange is the New Black.

-- Caroline Cropp